I’ve heard so many times from baby boomers who owned muscle cars in the late '60s or early '70s that they wish they would have kept them. Perhaps they should have because some of those cars are selling in the multiple millions of dollars.
Hindsight is always clearer, but when you see for what these cars are selling, you’ll definitely wish you held onto your first car. The bigger questions is which of today’s models have potential in the future?
With a little help from Black Book, the source for determining used car prices, we look at some of the most stunning examples of selling a once-everyday car for outrageous money.
“What makes a car a collectible over time includes any number of factors that include popularity, pop culture, and production volume,” said Eric Lawrence, director of specialty products at Black Book. “Many people think today’s uber-expensive vehicles always came with a hefty price tag, but these vehicles show that’s clearly not the case.”
At the top of Black Book’s list is the 1971 Plymouth Barracuda Convertible with the Hemi 426. If you had purchased the car new, it would have cost $4,296. Want to know what it’s worth today? About $2.5 million – a 58,000 percent improvement in the initial investment. Crazy, I know.
That’s even more than a 1967 Shelby Cobra 427 Roadster that sold for $7,500 new and is now worth $1.3 million – a 17,000 percent increase. On down the list are names like GTO, Eldorado, Corvette, Bonneville, Thunderbird, Charger and Mustang.
Black Book calls attention to the 1971 Pontiac GTO Judge Convertible, near the end of a run that began with John DeLorean’s team taking a Tempest and turning it into a high-power cruise missile. By the early '70s, fuel economy standards and emissions controls were poised to take the fun out of muscle cars, making this last of the species even cooler. You could have bought one for $4,070 new, but you’ll need $225,000 to own one today – a 5,400 percent improvement.
Two vastly different cars with similar investment increases are the 1965 Porsche 911 and 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Convertible. The 911 was an early example of the model that has become a global icon for over a half-century, while the big Cadillac convertible sported the tallest fins ever set on a production car and is the vision of the exuberant 1950s glitziness. The Porsche cost $6,490 new, but is worth about $250,000 today – an increase of 3,800 percent. The Cadillac? Well, it cost $7,400 new and is now worth $270,000, or 3,500 percent more.
A pair of hot Chevrolets popping up are the 1967 Corvette 427 Convertible and 1969 Camaro Z28 Coupe. The former is among the most coveted Corvettes of all time and the last before it transformed into the low-slung, long-nosed American vision it has become. The Vette cost $4,677 new and now costs about $165,000 – a 3,400 percent increase. The Camaro still shines through today as a beautiful car, but also shares lines with today’s model. A $3,184 purchase price has grown to $95,000 – or a 2,900 pecent increase.
The 1957 Ford Thunderbird and 1965 Ford Mustang also represented smart investments, had their original owners kept them. The Ford Thunderbird was never a cheap car, but it was far from a luxury car either. Buying one new for $3,408 and selling it for $85,000 would have netted a 2,400 percent return. The first Mustang GT Convertible with the 271 horsepower 289 engine went out the door for $3,156 and now commands $68,500, or a 2,100 percent improvement.
A sleeper amongst the everyday gems that have turned into diamonds is the 1957 Pontiac Bonneville Convertible. Especially as a convertible, it was a stunning car with all of its chrome and sheetmetal. At $5,782, it was one of Pontiac’s most expensive cars of the era, but it would cost $175,000 to buy one today – a 2,900 percent rise.
One last car you may wish you kept is the 1968 Dodge Charger R/T Coupe with the Hemi 426 V8 engine. It was one of the quickest cars off its day – a full-size coupe that could keep up with swift European rides. It cost $3,937 new, but brings $135,000 today. I’d take the 3,300 percent improvement!
All of this is interesting, but what cars should we keep today? There’s never a short answer to that question. A car should represent its era, be enjoyable to drive, have ageless styling, and be relatively low production. Being the last of its type helps. I suspect the Dodge Challenger HEMI is a safe bet.
The Cadillac CTS-V, Camaro ZL1, Chevy SS, and Ford Shelby Mustang are sure to be winners. What about the discontinued Cadillac CTS-V wagon or Dodge Magnum SRT? Yeah, probably those too. Let’s get a couple, put them in a barn, and see what happens!